Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Hamlet, Carmen, Castaway Connection

An Admission

—by Adena Schutzberg

I know it's not cool to admit this, but I'm a big fan of Gilligan's Island, the silly TV sitcom from the 1960s. As I kid I watched it in syndication on lazy weekday afternoons when I didn't have anything better to do. The seven castaways lived in an idyllic world of sunshine on a remote island in the vicinity of Hawaii. Despite the unique events of each episode, the closing credits always left the residents exactly as they'd always be, stranded on the island. It was on this TV show that I first encountered the music from the opera Carmen, one of the pieces we'll play at our March 7 concert.

The Producer (Season 3, Episode 4)

In what many consider the show's best episode, The Producer, the self-important movie director Harold Hecuba, played by Phil Silvers, crash lands on the island. He may well be their ticket home, but one castaway, movie star Ginger Grant, is slighted by Hecuba and refuses to return to civilization should they be rescued. To convince Grant and Hecuba of her talent, the castaways produce a musical version of Hamlet, set in part to the music of Carmen. In the end, Hecuba steals the idea and returns to Hollywood to develop it, without the castaways.

The best part of the story is the "show within the show," performed on the bamboo stage, first by the castaways, then by Hecuba, playing each of the roles. At six, when I probably first saw this episode, I knew nothing of Hamlet nor Carmen. When I later heard Carmen, probably in high school, I'm sure I thought, "Hey, that's the music from that Gilligan's Island musical!"

The five-minute castaway produced musical version of Hamlet.

Why is this version of Hamlet/Carmen so Sticky?

I can, even today, sing nearly all the parts from this product from memory. I can even recall some of the Hamlet dialog! Why did this mini-musical make such an impression on me at six?
  1. Carmen has some really catchy tunes. Even my housemate, who understandably closes the door to his office when I practice, said "Hey, I know that piece you are practicing. What is it?" When I said Carmen, he made the connection. I was disappointed he did not reference Gilligan's Island.
  2. The lyrics are funny and rhyme. This advice from Polonious to his son Leartes is a bit like Dr. Seuss for the slightly older set:
    Neither a borrower, nor a lender be, Do not forget, stay out of debt!
    Think twice and take this good advice from me.  Guard that old solvency!
    There's just one other thing you ought do do! To thine own self be true!
  3. The staging is memorable. I always enjoyed the inventions on the island. The pedal-powered car was one of my favorites. For the staged production there was a hand-cranked record player providing the background music from Carmen. (While it's not discussed, I assumed the rich couple had the recording with them on the three hour boat tour when it left Honolulu.) Further, the castaways build a stage, with open flamed footlights.

What will you think of when you hear The Concord Band play Carmen?

I confess that when I practice the arrangement of Carmen the band has selected, the Gilligan's Island lyrics run through my head. When did you first hear Carmen? What does the music make you think of? Come hear it in a whole new way at our Winter 2020 concert!

Adena Schutzberg has been a member of the Concord Band clarinet section since 2005 and has been a regular contributor to this blog. She is a recognized author and expert in geospatial technology, working as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) Program Manager at Esri. She is an avid runner, having completed multiple marathons and 100-mile ultra endurance events.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Memoir: Senior Member Recalls a Lifetime of Service

I joined the Concord Band a few months after finishing my doctorate at MIT's Sloan School of Management and moving to Acton. I had been made aware of the Band by my next-door neighbor, the late Brad Fuller, who played French horn in the Band at the time. I had not played since the end of my senior year in 1965. My four years as a member of the MIT Symphony had been quite wonderful, getting to know and play with the some people who, like me, despite their primary interests in their upcoming careers as scientists, engineers, academicians or managers, also took music very seriously.

In this last of many articles I have written or edited for Notes, the Concord Band newsletter, I want to review just a few of the more important achievements of my 50 years (not to pat myself on my back, but to make it clear that nothing happens unless someone takes the initiative) and to identify the directions in which I would like to see the Band go in the coming years.

One thing I would like to point out: very few of the things I have done for the Concord Band are directly related to music. As I have made clear to the members of the Band over the years, it takes much more than making good music to be an effective member of the Concord Band. I am not planning to retire as an active playing member of the Concord Band, only from most of my non-musical activities.

A Few Past Achievements

In 1970, I persuaded the Band Board to end the Band's parade appearances, allowing it to become strictly a concert band.

In 1972, I began using a computer-based word processing system (of which I had managed the development) to generate personalized fundraising letters. The Band hired a commercial artist to design a new logo for the Concord Band.

In 1976, I persuaded the Acton-Boxborough unit of the Emerson Hospital Auxiliary to sponsor an annual spring Pops concert the night after Concord Rotary's concert and to share expenses. This sponsorship lasted about 40 years. In 1985, I introduced Santa Claus to the Holiday Pops Concerts. Bill Toland, the Band's first Music Director, after Pops that year, commented, "This guy is the real thing." The same Santa has been with us ever since.

I was Fundraising Chairman for most of the period beginning 1970. Although I continually met or exceeded targets and mounted a substantial surplus as protection against any future financial disaster, I feel that I should have done much better. This is a function that deserves considerable improvement.

Having conceived of and introduced Notes as a replacement for the annual fundraising letter, I eventually became its editor and publisher, responsible for writing or sourcing the page 2 article. I organized and managed the processes for newsletter and fundraising mailings to a list of 3,000 three times a year (the third time is for a summer schedule postcard). Later the number of recipients was reduced to 1,800.

I conceived of the Lifetime Service Award. First given in 2002, thirteen have been awarded to date. I took on the responsibility of producing Concert CDs to give them professional quality documentation and packaging.

I designed new percussion cabinets and worked with Lexington's Minuteman Regional High School carpentry shop supervisor to have them produced by students.

In 1995, at the end of Bill Toland's tenure, I wrote the Band's Mission Statement in preparation for the search for a new Music Director, and coined the Band motto, "A Community Band with a Professional Attitude".

During planning for the 50th Anniversary season, I conceived of the idea of making video recordings of Fall and Winter Concerts as a major addition to the Band archive. I brought in Concord-Carlisle TV as the production company and acted as Executive Producer and post-production editor. I organized the Band to get the Fall, 2008, Concert video onto as many public access cable stations as possible to promote the 50th Anniversary concert in March, 2009. Beginning with that first concert, each piece performed has become part of the Concord Band YouTube Channel, which now includes more than 200 performance recordings.

In time for the 50th Anniversary Concert, I proposed naming Bill McManus Music Director Emeritus and Bill Toland, Music Director Laureate.

Suggested Future Directions

The next Concord Band Fundraising Chairperson should try to do much more with the job than I did. In particular, grants beyond those of the Massachusetts Cultural Council should be investigated and, where appropriate, pursued. In addition, fundraising methods used by other symphonic wind ensembles around the country should be explored, and those that appear to be most promising, tried.

One promising area is the involvement of local school children. There are a few potential advantages of such activity. In addition to providing performance opportunities for the kids, it makes them aware of us in advance of potential membership later in life. More immediately, it makes their parents aware of the Band's concerts.

Finally, I want to encourage all those who may serve on the Band Board of Trustees in the future to continue to pursue the Band's program of commissions, setting aside funds every year and seeking grants for major works. I would recommend avoiding consortia as they make it very difficult for any one participant to influence the work to be created. I would like to see the Band commission a work for symphonic wind ensemble and mixed chorus.

Dan Diamond is the senior member of the Concord Band, having joined the Band as a percussionist in January, 1970, and is now in his 50th year. He has been a member of its Board of Trustees for most of his time in the Band. In 2009, he received the Band's Lifetime Service Award. He is president of the nonprofit, Dream Centers for the Performing Arts.